Cute Cafes in Glasgow

Now, a blog post about ‘Cute Cafes in Glasgow’ (or anywhere else to be honest) isn’t the sort of post I’d normally write. This is because they require an awful lot of upkeep and admin, and they’re best written by people who live in a place on a long term basis. That way they can keep it updated much simpler without expensive and excessive travel. And despite living there for two years, I no longer live in Glasgow.

Chocolate Brownie, Hot Chocolate, salt, pepper, chilli sauce, a glass and bottle of water, a blue hat, and a book of crosswords are on a flat single piece of wood topping a table.
Hot chocolate and brownie from the Papercup Cafe in Glasgow’s West End
However, an episode of my podcast before I left talked about the rise of AI, and in particular ChatGPT. Part of that episode was my using ChatGPT to see if it could write a post about ‘cute cafes in Glasgow’, which I could then check to see if it was accurate or if it was riddled with errors.

At the time I did the podcast episode, ChatGPT was using a dataset that was limited to 2021; this has now been lifted so hopefully if you try to recreate the results, it’ll be more accurate. I am, of course, fully aware of the irony that my writing this post will feed ChatGPT (and other AIs) with updated information so that anyone searching for ‘cute cafes in Glasgow’ will find AI-written posts using this blog as source material. Something something self-fulfilling prophecy.

Anyway. This is what ChatGPT came up with when searching for ‘cute cafes in Glasgow’ in the summer of 2023. Your mileage may vary.

Riverhill Coffee Bar – Gordon Street

ChatGPT says: Riverhill Coffee Bar: Located on Gordon Street, Riverhill Coffee Bar is a charming place with a warm and welcoming ambiance. They serve excellent coffee and a variety of tasty treats, making it a perfect spot to relax and unwind.

A counter with display sections in a cafe. It's wooden-panel-fronted, with cakes and bread on the left, and sandwiches and pies on the right, behind a perspex screen.
Typical display of foods in Riverhill Coffee Bar
I’m on record in my podcast episode as saying I couldn’t find this, and that I thought it’d turned into a bookmakers. This is because I evidently can’t read maps. On a later visit to Glasgow after I’d moved out, I managed to find it, one block to the left of where I thought it was. I’m blaming the fact that Glasgow is built on a grid pattern and I always got lost in it.

It’s a small cafe, not somewhere you could realistically spend a lot of time, but it does have outdoor seating. What I will say is it seems to have a very good selection of sandwiches and cakes, and by ‘good’ I mean ‘varied’ – not just cheese and ham. I can’t comment on the coffee, but I had a pretty decent hot chocolate and a chocolatey cake thing. They also do breakfast, which several people kept trying to buy despite it being lunchtime – check the time on your watch!

Shot of the Riverhill Coffee Bar from across the street. It's next to a doughnut shop. Out front are several wooden tables, all occupied.
Outside the Riverhill Coffee Bar; it’s slightly bigger than it looks
It’s very much in the centre of Glasgow; come out the main entrance to Glasgow Central, turn right, cross at the crossroads, and it’s on your right just before the next junction. So it’s very convenient.

8.5/10 – would recommend.

Singl-end Cafe & Bakehouse – Renfrew Street

ChatGPT says: This delightful cafe on Renfrew Street is known for its freshly baked goods and quirky decor. It has a unique and homely atmosphere, making it an ideal spot for a leisurely brunch or afternoon tea.

A shot taken looking down at a table in a cafe. The table is glass-topped and has stickers and cards between the frame and the glass. On the tabletop is a chocolate brownie and a glass filled with mint leaves.
The only picture either of us seem to have of the cafe, but it shows the vibe as well as the food
There’s actually two of these. I don’t know if there was only one during the period ChatGPT is programmed to search for. I’ve been to both of them; they’re about a mile from each other and if Kate-Frankie Brennan is reading this, thank you for buying my brownie after sending me to the wrong one and having to sprint across town. You muppet. (Affectionate).

The one ChatGPT has highlighted is in the far west of the city centre, on a quiet and narrow street that you wouldn’t otherwise think to go down, and kind of built into the hillside. The other is in the city centre, very close to George Square. Guess which one I was directed to, having been previously in the Wetherspoons on George Square. Guess which one Kate-Frankie was actually in.

Anyway. Yes, I can confirm it’s a quirky place, with a decent array of cakes and a fairly reasonable menu. They also do mocktails, or at least I recall having something minty and mojito-like, but alcohol-free. It’s very popular, and somewhere you do really need to book in advance for. Good choice by ChatGPT there.

Although both of them seem a decent size, they are pretty popular. Kate-Frankie reserved a table and when I arrived there was quite a queue outside. Granted this was a Saturday lunchtime so I don’t know if it would be quite as hard to get into on, say, a Tuesday afternoon, but just be aware. The one ChatGPT suggested felt smaller, and although further from the city centre, it is on the way to the West End so would still get a lot of footfall.

8/10 – but book ahead.

Laboratorio Espresso – West Nile Street

ChatGPT says: Tucked away on West Regent Street, Laboratorio Espresso is a tiny but adorable cafe with a focus on high-quality coffee. It’s a great place to grab a quick cup of coffee and indulge in some people-watching.

Entirely glass-fronted shop with a large open doorway. There's a couple of benches outside, a couple of tables inside, but the frontage mostly is a reflection on the buildings behind the camera on the other side of the street, and thus it's hard to make out much about the shop itself.
Outside the Laboratorio Espresso cafe
This is a very small place in the very centre of Glasgow. In fact it’s on West Nile Street, rather than West Regent Street, which though only a block away, is a piece of information ChatGPT has mis-researched. I can’t vouch for the coffee (which ChatGPT seems to focus on, in a sentence that doesn’t quite flow naturally), but as half the seating is directly facing the window, it is very much a place for people-watching (West Nile Street is quite busy – though on my visit on Sunday it was busy with cyclists more than people). The hot chocolate was quite milky though and they had a small but quality selection of cakes and cannoli.

ChatGPT calls it ‘tiny’, and it is – aside from the ‘bar’ along the window there’s maybe two other tables inside. It feels very much more a place to take-away rather than drink-in, and its location means there aren’t a great deal of opportunities to drink outside nearby. Having said which, if you’re working in the vicinity, it’s a good place to grab a pre-work drink.

Three people standing in front of a counter, on which are boxes of coffee and some kind of machine. Behind is a wall with a price-list on it, mostly listing coffees
This pic was taken while sat at the counter table by the window, facing backwards; there’s not a lot of room in here at all
6/10 – nice enough but selection is small. I’d probably rate it higher if I was going for coffee; ymmv.

Papercup Coffee – Great Western Road

ChatGPT says: With two locations in the city, Papercup Coffee Company has become a beloved spot for coffee enthusiasts. The cafes have a cozy and relaxed vibe, offering top-notch coffee and friendly service.

Four tables, each with two people on, on a street outside the cafe's front. The tables are underneath a canopy.
Outside the Papercup Cafe; even with outside seating it feels quite cramped and busy
My research suggested that yes, there are two locations. I went to the one on Great Western Road in the West End. The other is near Partick, very close to the SWG3 arts complex, and is what Google Maps describes as the ‘roastery’.

It is quite small – there are four tables-for-two squashed close together, a couple more near the window, and some outdoor seating, and there’s barely room to swing a meerkat between the tables and the bar. To that end it feels very cramped and crowded. That said, the decor is very hippie, the staff are very chill and friendly, and they have a decent menu including pancakes and salads. My hot chocolate was quite watery, as seems to be the way in the UK sadly, but my cake was grand.

Again, I wonder if this is a better cafe for coffee specifically than for the trappings. Also, I felt it works better as a concept than as a practical idea. It’s a very nice space, and the staff are very friendly. It’s got a fabulous vibe. I just … think it drops a couple of points in its execution. I think if I lived nearby I’d go there despite, rather than because of, the drink and the physical space.

Two people stand either side of a very cluttered shop counter, presumably conducting a transaction. Behind one of them are the trappings of the cafe – a grill, a hot water dispenser, a ventilation unit, sauces, etc. The sides of the counter have a painted pattern of fronds in different colours.
Inside the cafe – the gap between the counter and the tables isn’t very large
7/10 – I think they’re trying to be all things to all people, and it doesn’t quite work. Extra point for ambiance though; it was a really nice vibe inside.

The Hidden Lane Tearoom – Hidden Lane

ChatGPT says: As the name suggests, this charming tearoom is tucked away in the Hidden Lane off Argyle Street. It offers a delightful selection of teas, homemade cakes, and scones in a quirky and artistic setting.

Inside a cafe, with wooden laminate flooring, and several wooden tables with chair frames covered with a myriad of seat coverings. There is a sewing machine in the background, on a table against the wall.
Definitely feels old-fashioned compared with the hippier cafes mentioned earlier
I went here for breakfast, and while I was tempted with the scones, I instead plumped for a salmon and scrambled egg on toast, which isn’t something I’d normally try. The scones did look good though – people at the next table had them.

There’s a lot more space in this than in some of the other cafes, and, I don’t know about quirky and artistic, but it’s certainly distinctive. I had one of the teas (well, an Indian spiced chai) – they had at least six or seven on the menu, with a similar amount of coffees – and it came in a teapot with a teacup (both quite grandmothery in design) and a strainer, so it was proper tea.

Floral-patterned teacup, saucers, and teapot, on a table along with a teastrainer and a small potted plant, and a plate with toast, egg, salmon, and green leaves on it.
Yer grandma’s tea service
I can’t remember if this place did Afternoon Tea, but of all the cafes on the list, this is the one I’d be least surprised if they did.

8.5/10 – the only cafe I went for breakfast in, so it was a quiet time and my choices were different to the others, but it seemed to be big and airy enough to cope.

Cafe Strange Brew – Pollokshaws Road

ChatGPT says: Known for its eccentric and kitschy interior, Cafe Strange Brew on Pollokshaws Road offers a unique cafe experience. The menu features delicious breakfast options and creative coffee concoctions.

Wideshot of the inside of a cafe, with lots of people sat at tables. On the left wall, tiled, are a couple of 1960s-era posters. On the right, by the serving counter, is foliage.
The inside of the Cafe Strange Brew
So. I passed this cafe every time I went from my flat to the local co-op supermarket. And every time there seemed to be a huge queue outside it. I figured it had to be pretty decent if it was that popular, but, I’ll be honest, the queue put me off.

Anyway, just before I moved away I made sure I went at least once, to check it out. Even though I visited on a Thursday afternoon, I still had to make a booking because they were so busy, Fortunately I only had to wander around for 20 minutes before they messaged me to say a table was free.

Most people who visit Glasgow will go to the centre, and then to West End. This cafe is in Southside which is less visited but is very much an up-and-coming area. It’s easy to get to, with an excessive number of railway stations and easy bus routes from the centre, and walkable, though it’s a less-than-salubrious trek. And there’s a blog post someone else can write on ‘Glasgow Southside Cafes’ specifically.

Anyway. It was worth the wait.
I had *the* best food and drink of all the cafes listed – in this case a huge chocolate milkshake and an epic salad. The cafe was larger than you might expect, givcn the queue, and very casually decorated. It’s not a Diner but it has similar vibes. The staff were friendly, and despite being really popular I never felt rushed, The menu was extensive and what I got was filling and tasty.

Sausage and egg salad, with greenery, a chocolate milkshake in a large glass, and a book of crosswords, are on a table in a cafe.
My food at Cafe Strange Brew
9.5/10 – knock off half a mark for the next two years until Southside becomes hip and they improve the ambiance of Eglinton Sttreet.

Avenue G Cafe – Byres Road

ChatGPT says: Located on Byres Road, Avenue G Café is a lovely place with a vintage-inspired decor. It’s a great spot to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee along with some homemade cakes.

An empty shop on a city street. There's no signage, and half the window is frosted/opaque.
The apparent location of Avenue G Cafe
This was ChatGPT’s only ‘fail’ – Google Maps suggests this place closed in around 2017, and went through a couple of ownerships since. On my visit to check out what was there at the time of the pod I made, the property was unoccupied.


ChatGPT made two ‘disclaimers’ when I asked about cute cafes in Glasgow. Their first was at the start of the conversation, about the time period they covered:

ChatGPT: Hello! Of course, I’d be delighted to recommend some cute cafes in Glasgow. As my knowledge is based on information up to September 2021, I’ll provide you with some popular and charming cafes that were known for their cozy and adorable atmosphere. Keep in mind that things might have changed since then, so I recommend checking for recent reviews and updates before visiting.

The second came at the end, when it summarised its findings, and reinforced the idea that we need to check for ourselves.

ChatGPT: These cafes should offer you a delightful experience in Glasgow, but always remember to check for the latest information and reviews to ensure they still meet your expectations. Enjoy your time in the city and have a wonderful visit to the cute cafes!

When asked for a favourite cafe, it was equally as non-committal:

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I don’t have personal preferences or feelings, so I don’t have a favorite cafe. However, based on the information available up to September 2021, all the cafes I mentioned have their unique charm and appeal, making them wonderful places to visit depending on your taste and preferences.

If you enjoy a cozy and artsy atmosphere, you might like the Hidden Lane Tearoom or Singl-end Cafe & Bakehouse. For coffee enthusiasts, Riverhill Coffee Bar, Laboratorio Espresso, and Papercup Coffee Company are excellent choices. If you’re looking for a more eccentric experience, Cafe Strange Brew might be the one for you. Ultimately, the best cafe for you will depend on your personal preferences, whether you’re seeking great coffee, delicious treats, a particular ambiance, or all of the above!

On a large-tiled wall, above three retro-posters, is an illuminated neon sign that says Keep Shawlands Strange.
Illuminated sign in Cafe Strange Brew


As it itself stated twice in this discussion, ChatGPT’s content trawl at the time covered up only to September 2021. This leads to two observations.

Firstly, the actual date itself means anything that’s happened since simply won’t be recorded. In this case all but one of the cute cafes in Glasgow suggested by ChatGPT are still open, but in a more volatile economic climate or a location where business turnover is much higher, this may be an issue. Secondly, while I’m sure the algorithm is assessing higher priority to more recent content, there’s no real start date so much of the information it’s trawling will be old. The problem here is, if there’s no updated content available to collect, then it’ll still value the older stuff. So if, as in this case, a cafe has closed but no-one on the internet has noted that, or if content that did refer to that cafe’s existence hasn’t been updated, as far as ChatGPT is concerned, the cafe is still open. This is especially glaring here as Avenue Cafe (my research suggests it wasn’t even called Avenue G) closed not recently, but before I even started making a podcast. This is why I don’t make listicles, by the way. Far too much admin to upkeep.

What this proves is that ChatGPT and related AI is a tool, something to provide a framework, and shouldn’t be used as a definitive source. It does the research but in the sense of fact-checking, it can only cross-reference with what’s available online. If you’re going to use AI to create a listicle, it’s imperative that you check to make sure everything it tells you is still correct. All it’s doing is saving you looking up data, it’s up to you still to write the article. And anyway, why wouldn’t you want to go visiting cute cafes in Glasgow to eat lots of brownies or drink fancy coffees?

Going forward, maybe this will improve over time, but there’ll always be old data on the Internet, and there’ll always be situations where things genuinely don’t get updated. Unless AI gets very good with cross-referencing, and that leads to privacy concerns, or bloggers start putting full address details on their pages, I don’t think AI will ever be 100% up-to-date and accurate.

A good question worth asking, but one for which there’s no easy answer, is ‘given the sheer number of cute cafes in Glasgow, why did ChatGPT choose these?’. Given it’s a tool that functions as a glorified search engine though, it’s likely it’s chosen these cafes because a plethora of travel bloggers, online newspapers, and listicle websites, had previously highlighted these as being the most notable.

It’s one of those situations where it might also help to ask a more specific question. There’s enough cute cafes of various types in Glasgow Southside alone (especially if you include both Strathbungo and Victoria Road along with Shawlands) to keep a coffee-and-cake blogger busy for at least a year, never mind the West End. And none of the cafes listed were in the East – Dennistoun is a whole ‘nother ‘quite hip’ place of its own.

For the record, the cafe I went into the most often during my time living in Glasgow Southside was called ‘Spill The Beans’, on Skirving Street, and about a two minute walk from the Cafe Strange Brew. It’s large, it serves a whole menu of food (including homemade soups and brownies), and for the non-coffee drinkers, it does a myriad of other drinks including five or six uber-milkshakes that are a meal unto themselves. It never felt too crowded and it always seemed very welcoming, even to a barefoot hippy enby like me.

View of the inside of a cafe, from a table. To the left is a box wall feature covered in fairy lights. In front is a comfy leather sofachair. There's a laptop and a chocolate brownie on the table
View of the inside of Spill The Beans. My usual table is off-shot, to the right and a long way forward.
Regarding ChatGPT though, as a follow-up we asked if there were any pubs or cafes in Glasgow I should avoid, expecting it to scrape bad reviews but it didn’t. Rather, it told me:

ChatGPT: However, like any city, Glasgow may have some cafes or pubs that might not meet everyone’s expectations in terms of service, ambiance, or quality. To ensure you have a pleasant experience, I recommend doing some research before visiting any establishment. Look for recent reviews and ratings on platforms like Google, Yelp, or TripAdvisor to gauge the general consensus about a particular cafe or pub.

Additionally, if you’re unsure about a place, you can always ask locals or friends for recommendations. They might be able to provide insights based on their personal experiences.

Remember that everyone’s preferences differ, and what one person dislikes, another might enjoy. Trusting your instincts and gathering information from multiple sources can help you make an informed decision about where to spend your time in Glasgow.

Well, isn’t that nice. It didn’t even tell me to be wary of the Brazen Head.

A long rectangular building, mostly painted green, with a large banner above the windows that congratulates Celtic Football Club for being Champions.
Allegedly one of the roughest pubs in Glasgow. It helps if you’re an Irish Nationalist.

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